Catching Photons


Catching Photons

Anas Raza | Firaas Khan

At the beginning of the course, we developed an interest in the potential of robotic arms to produce impressive light trails using light painting techniques. And how can we use the still images of lighting painted trails to create a stop-motion animation with a human interaction involved in this narrative? Project 2 gave us this exact opportunity to explore the co-creative environment made of light painting, human interaction, and robotic arm movement. Our narrative focused on a human actor attempting to catch the light, which we developed with an ironic twist, given that light painting can only be viewed through the camera lens and not with the naked eye. Furthermore, we aimed to integrate human interaction with robots into the stop-motion animation to create a sense of playfulness, including immersivness by introducing light painting. The collaborative nature of our project, which brought together different disciplines such as photography, robotics, and storytelling, exemplified the potential of co-creation and interdisciplinary collaboration in artistic and creative endeavours.

Video Link

Process work

To create Light Painting, you’ll need a few key components: a darkened space, a camera programmed to take long exposure shots, a movable source of light and a willingness to play and explore. The process becomes more sophisticated when the light source is moved by a robotic arm to create precise movements.pxl_20230412_195858769

The first step was to make the process room dark by covering any exposed areas from where the light could enter the room. 2nd step included setting up the stage for the robot performance by making sure that the robot is performing in front of a background that’s as dark black as possible.




In the next step, we setup the camera with an exposure time of 5 to 10 seconds, using a tripod and a remote shutter release, an aperture of f10 and an ISO set to 100 to reduce colour noise to a minimum.




In the next step, we moved the light source with the robotic arm. The path was dictated by the Processing sketch. We were expecting to move the arm on a vector path, but our limited knowledge of writing code for Processing was a big obstacle. We ended up using mouse coordinates as our live data to move the arm on the desired path. Our idea was to write letters and draw shapes to create a stop-motion animation sequence. We achieved this by placing an image in the Processing and moving the mouse cursor over the alphabet. We used the mouseMoved() function to publish data to the robotic arm.


The image shows the robotic arm movement holding a light source, corresponding to mouse coordinate data coming from the Processing sketch.




The image on the left is the result of the light source motion when taken under a long shutter speed exposure. aka light painting.




The image on the left show the result of stitching still images together to create a stop-motion animation effect.



In this step, we tried to create an illusion of catching light. We created a table in Processing that corresponds to the light scribble position in each frame.




The image on the left shows mouse movements in a single cell to create each frame of the above animation.



The photo on the left is a single-frame example of using the above approach.




In the post-production, we stitched all frames together to create the video


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